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Reframing the Car Buying Journey, with Google Lens

Google through a magnifying lens

Like all things in this world, our adoption of new technology necessitates a bit of balance. While it’s okay to question how something like a Google Home might process your most intimate personal information, I generally tune out around Christmas dinner when my uncle Steve starts talking about Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to harvest the data from all of my Facebook Messenger conversations (in order to create a singular, Facebook-run state like something out of a Black Mirror episode). I guess what I’m trying to say is, blindly accepting things without so much as a hint of cynicism can be a dangerous path, but you also need to be rational when it comes to your concerns—except when it comes to Zuckerberg, he scares the hell out of me. So, while you might imagine an app on your phone seeing what you see then scouring the internet for information related to it as a terrifying invasion of your privacy, you should embrace it; or, at the very least, you should embrace how it could potentially help your dealership in the future. Enter Google Lens.

What is Google Lens? 

First announced during Google I/O 2017, the brand’s annual developer conference hosted in Silicon Valley (and straight out of an episode of Silicon Valley), Google Lens is image recognition software capable of identifying objects through your phone’s camera. It does this by visually analyzing the object, running it through a neural network, then finding any information relevant to the image. Available as a standalone app, or fully integrated into a selection of Android phones’ cameras, Google Lens is designed so you can point, shoot, and then learn about an object, without ever having to open up the Google Chrome app on your phone. 

An image of a phone viewing flowers, and the Google Lens app showing results for "Tulip."
Google Lens in action, lookin’ at some purdy flowers.

What Can Google Lens Do?

The real question is, what can’t it do? Need to translate text? Open the Google Lens app, point your phone’s camera at the text, and it’ll be translated (though it should be taken with a grain of salt, when you consider the veracity of Google Translate). But still—a mostly correct translation is better than none at all. Want to add an event to your Google Calendar, by simply pointing your camera at a barcode? Well, Google Lens has you covered. Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Well, if it were a Gardenia it might. Of course, you’d know exactly what type of flower you were looking at, if you used Google Lens to snap a quick photo. Curious about the breed of good boy dog you saw walking through the park? Yup, you guessed it. Google Lens has you covered.

One of the most exciting areas for Google Lens to have an immediate impact has to be retail. Did you see a pair of sneakers you like, or the perfect set of dining room chairs? Even if Google Lens can’t get you an exact match, they’ll pull up something similar. Say goodbye to the awkward moment where you’re simultaneously searching and price matching an item, while a poor, underpaid retail employee prattles on about the product, and you half listen to them (just me? Yeah, I’m a bad person). Simply point your camera at the product, and you’ll have the infinite knowledge of Google search at your fingertips.

looking at a road full of cars, through the lens of a pair of glasses

How Can Google Lens Help Your Dealership?

Sure, it’s great to be able to find out more about a nice dog, or pick the next flowers to die in your garden, but how can this help the automotive industry? If you work at a dealership, you’re probably pretty well-versed when it comes to vehicle makes, models, and even parts—but that doesn’t mean the average person is (a fact so painfully obvious to service advisors stuck listening to the non-rhythmic beat-boxing of people trying to imitate a noise their car made once). However, when it comes to something as simple as pointing their phone’s camera at an object, most people are damn near professionals.

So, for the layman to see a parked car they like, and determine the year, make, and model (right down to trim line) in seconds—well, that bodes well for selling that vehicle. Just imagine all the content you’re putting on your site (you are putting content on your site, right?), talking about the perks of driving said vehicle, or how it compares to the competition, showing up immediately, and informing the customer of how great said vehicle is—sounds like an easy sale to us. How about the customer in need of a new windshield wiper blade; simply taking a photo of their current blade could tell them the brand and size. Of course, this is Google we’re talking about, and there’s no way they stop at just telling you about the size of the wiper blade. No, there’ll be links to purchase the wiper blade (and therefore paid ad space to bid on in your Google Ads account), plus content, like how often you need to change your wiper blades. If you’re creating said content, alongside easy to follow CTAs so people can buy new wiper blades—well, again, that sounds like an easy sale to us. 

But What About Big Brother?

It would be disingenuous of us to assume Google doesn’t get something out of Google Lens (and, if you know me, you know I can’t suffocate my cynicism that long). Increased traffic leads to increased ad costs, and yeah, I’m sure that Google is harvesting our data—to what end, who knows? I’m not too worried about what they plan on doing with it, as long as it continues to make my life easier. Imagine taking a picture of your uncle Steve’s bookshelf, and then having Google suggest a book he doesn’t own alongside a link to purchase it. All of a sudden, you’ve got his Christmas gift without having to listen to his crackpot theories. Sure, Google could sell the information to the government, but what’re the odds he’s not on that watchlist already? For most of us, the worst thing Google will see is our dogs and double-chins. Or, in my case, I might get a few extra Dollar Shave Club ads, though it’s a small price to pay for the added convenience (I mean, it’s literally only a dollar a month). Plus, you need to be using the app for Google to search for relevant information—so just don’t use it for criminal behaviour and you’ll be fine. 

Want to stay apprised of what Google has up their sleeves, and how it may affect your business? Interested in producing some scintillating content, and being prepared for customers utilizing Google Lens? Curious about more of my uncle Steve’s theories? Stay tuned to our blog, or feel free to get in touch with your OMM, or our SEO team.

Content Marketing, Google, Google Ads, Google Lens, Google Tools, Paid Search Ads

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